New ‘Alien: Romulus’ trailer brings the franchise back to its sci-fi horror roots

Alien Romulus
(Image credit: 20th Century Studios)

The “Alien” franchise is getting back to basics. That’s what it looks like in the new trailer for “Alien: Romulus,” from Fede Alvarez, director of “Don’t Breathe” and the 2013 “Evil Dead” remake. Gone is the grand mythology that director Ridley Scott explored in the most recent “Alien” films, “Prometheus” and “Alien: Covenant,” replaced with a visceral horror story that recalls Scott’s original 1979 movie.

Cailee Spaeny, a recent breakout star thanks to her roles in “Priscilla” and “Civil War,” stars as the movie’s Ripley-like protagonist, one member of a salvage crew investigating an abandoned space station, where they encounter some very familiar-looking creatures that are about to seriously mess them up. Like the original “Alien,” “Romulus” looks like it focuses on a small group of people in a confined space, terrorized by a frightening, deadly enemy.

The trailer is full of images and moments that evoke classic elements of the franchise, including a variation on the original tagline, “In space, no one can hear you scream.” The alien’s acidic blood eats through walls, the characters warily wander through ominous dark corridors, and in a particularly terrifying moment, one character uses a scanning device to illuminate an alien gestating inside her chest cavity. 

The first half of the trailer is punctuated by the thumping sounds of what turns out to be the alien getting ready to burst free.

The trailer focuses more on the “face-hugger” stage of the aliens, the smaller versions that latch onto human faces, so they can implant eggs that grow inside the human body. The face-huggers skitter around the station after the characters, and at one point a character warns, “There’s something in the water,” as the face-huggers swim toward him. That’s a smaller-scale version of the scene from “Alien: Resurrection” as the larger aliens swiftly swim through a flooded chamber after the characters.

The iconic full-grown alien shows up only briefly toward the end of the trailer, including in the final shot, as it menaces Spaeny’s Rain Carradine in an image reminiscent of the famous shot of the alien right next to Ripley’s face in “Alien 3.” Aided by Scott himself as producer, Alvarez clearly knows his franchise history, and he knows how to get a response from longtime fans.

As one of those longtime fans, I’m cautiously optimistic about Alvarez’s take on the material. I like Scott’s expansive treatment of the lore behind the aliens, but the first movie in the series remains my favorite, so I’m up for a more streamlined, horror-oriented “Alien” tale. “Romulus” is set between the events of the first two “Alien” movies, so it doesn’t have much continuity baggage to deal with. I’ll miss Sigourney Weaver’s presence as Ripley, which anchored the original four movies, but I thought Spaeny was fantastic in “Priscilla” and “Civil War,” so she seems like a worthy successor.

I’ll find out along with everyone else when “Alien: Romulus” hits theaters on August 16.

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Josh Bell

Josh Bell is a freelance writer and movie/TV critic based in Las Vegas. He's the former film editor of Las Vegas Weekly and has written about movies and TV for Vulture, Inverse, CBR, Crooked Marquee and more. With comedian Jason Harris, he co-hosts the podcast Awesome Movie Year.